ImPerfect Blog

One Word That Changed My Life (Chapter 15)

More than once one word, has changed my life. 

As a young woman fresh out of college and ready to make my mark on the world, one word drove me. I wanted to "TOUR". I knew I wanted to travel the United States and visit cities and states I had never been. I could not afford to go on my own, so I figure I could get a job that paid for my travel. So this word, "Tour" was the one and only thing driving my job search after graduation. 

I didn't know if I was supposed to become a roadie and go out with a band. That wasn't too much of a stretch of the imagination as I had already worked backstage at concerts as local crew during my college years. It was almost a natural progression to go out with a band, but there was something about the male dominated culture of production at the time that I didn't like. 

I also imagined getting a promotional marketing gig and how I might end up driving the Oscar Mayer Weiner mobile across the country. I was willing to do that, even if it meant dressing up like a weine in Little Rock, Arkansas and dancing around in front of Walmart. It sounded fun. I knew I wanted to tour and I was willing to go wherever that word took me.

Since it was time for a real job, I set off into the unknown sea of possibilities and uncertainty that accompanies attempting any new endeavor. My job search, like many things in life, I began with so much excitement and enthusiasm. I found jobs and applied to anything that involved touring. I searched Yahoo and for new opportunities and waited hopefully for responses, certain my opportunity was just mere moments away. Sure that someone would soon see my valued and hire me. . . Nothing. 

I sent more letters. I followed up with applications I'd submitted. I personalized every cover letter and told them about my passion and my experience. I did my absolute best. . . Nothing.

I sent off more letters, found more job and search tirelessly for other opportunities. I waited for a call back, for a letter, for an interview, for something. Nothing. 

Eight months in I was losing faith, I began hating the dream I once loved. My relentlessness toward my singleminded dream of "touring" had focused me on my search, yet it was yielding any results. I was getting really hard on myself. What am I doing wrong? Why am I not good enough for them to even call me? Why don't I hear anything? What skills am I missing? What can I do differently to get them to notice me? What else can I do? What if this doesn't work out?

I had a fall back plan to work at Borders books if I was unable to find a touring job, but the idea of working a minimum wage job felt like a kick in the face. I hadn't spent 16 years in school getting straight A's to go work at a retail job for minimum wage. In my mind I hadn't worked so damn hard and incurred thousands in student loans for a minimum wage job I could have gotten straight out of high school.

I wanted more. I thought I deserved it. I knew Border's was an option, but I thought graduating with honors, Suma Cum Laude, and staying at the top of my class throughout my schooling would have provided me some kind of big girl job opportunity. I was counting on it, but I was feeling like 8 months in I should have a job by now. 

I began feeling desperate. So much of my future seemed completely out of my control. I had made more than min wage in college, I really felt like it would be going backwards to work at the local bookstore, but eventually I picked up an application. 

Then I hit a proverbial wall, 9 months of searching and I was dog tired of trying to get a job and not getting any offers, and hardly an interview. Everyday I'd go online and stare at the same 12 job postings. It seemed to be the same 12 jobs that were posted the previous week. I would submit application after application and cover letter after cover letter, resume after resume and no one would call me back. I would hear nothing and the silence was deafening and discouraging.

Did they even get my application? Did they fill the position? I wondered day in and day out. Nothing much new came up in terms of opportunities. One beautiful April evening I turned off the computer and went to bed. My 21 year old self cuddled my pillow like a little child hold a stuffed animal tight to my chest. I cried to god, "I can't do this anymore. It's too hard. I want a job, but I just can't do this. I'm tired and I'm done searching. I've done all I can do, help god! I can't do any more. Please help." That night I decided I'm wasn't even going to look at the computer tomorrow. 

The next day I met a friend for a dinner and a movie. As I got in the car to drive to the theatre I noticed the application to Borders on the passenger seat." I'll apply to Borders tomorrow" I thought to myself. And off I went for a night of relaxation and fun.

Upon arriving home I had a message. A company had called me. They wanted me to call in the morning, and they wanted to interview me for a position touring with their marketing team. I felt stunned and excited. I was expecting to go to Borders, but suddenly I was making plans to drive to Los Angeles to the companies headquarters for an interview.

The next day I called the company to confirm the interview,  and called my cousin to ask if I could crash at his place for a few days. I packed my car and drove 5 hours from Folsom to LA.

I told my mom as I left the house, "I'll either see you in either 3 days or in 3 weeks."

Everything depended on wether or not I got the job! The position with the marketing team started immediately.  Within 3 days I was hired, trained and on a plane, flying 35,000 ft high from LA to Washington DC for the first Breast Cancer 3 Day of the summer event season. I felt as high as that plane flew!

The touring job was a dream come true for me. I was living on a bus,  sleeping in a bunk that was about 2 feet high. Life was the adventure I had dreamed of. I even loved it when I fell out of the middle bunk and decided I had better sleep closer to the floor, for safety sake. 
I loved traveling to cities I had never seen before. I visited an intersection in Washington DC with a Starbucks on every corner. I ate sushi at midnight in Boston and I even stood on a glacier in Alaska. It was all a great adventure and I loved it.

There were unexpected blessings too. The company I worked for was revolutionary. We produced one of a kind, multi-day charity fundraising events. Thousands of people raised millions more quickly than any other event series in history.

There premise was not to ask the least one could do for a cause, but rather to push people to their limit. We asked them what is the most you can give! Our event participants walked 3 day and 60 miles for Breast Cancer and cycled hundreds of mile over 5 to 7 days to support AIDS charities.

The most stunning thing about my time with PTW was the culture that was created over the 3, 5 and 7 day events. It was a unique environment I haven't seen anywhere else. 

The last person to arrive at camp was ALWAYS celebrated. The journey was more important than the destination and we all lived in support of one another. Kindness was valued and practiced by everyone. Volunteers, participants and staff modeled human kindness in the simplest of ways. We all found ways to help each other.  We even learned there is a respectful way to close a portal potty door. (If you are curious the most respectful way to close a portal potty for is carefully and lightly, trust me its very important to remember at 3 am when people are trying to sleep.) 

I recall the moment I stood in the middle of a closed Pensylvania Ave in Washington DC while the marketing trailer I worked in was framed by the national capitol building, I turned to see 3000 people steam by, celebrating their loved ones, survivors of breast cancer.

At closing ceremonies across the country I witnessed the power of the human spirit. People had raised thousands of dollars, millions collectively. People who were physically exhausted having just walked for 60 miles over the past 3 days, with blisters on their feet, were now celebrating their accomplishment, together. This celebration of humanity happened week after week after week in every city we visited across the country.

It was breathtaking. And I cried every time I witnessed the power of the human spirit and collective goodness of humanity in action.

I also met my future husband working on tour. He was the sound guy for the charity events. Before I even knew him, I felt like something would happen with the sound guy on tour and indeed it did.

Kick. Step. Stomp. (chapter 14)

The bar was empty excpt for a few couples scattered about. Most were partaking in a meal at a table. I scanned the room. My eyes landed on an empty row of stools at the long curved bar.

Sitting meant I was committing to stay and I hadn't quite decided I wanted to yet. Maybe I'll leave, I considered even though I had a babysitter, I had put effort into getting my hair and makeup done just right, and I wanted to do something for myself, all things I hadn't done in a while. I had made and intention to just try one lesson, but standing in that bar, I still wasn't sure I was willing to get past this discomfort. I felt my heart start to race.

The flier said the lesson started at 8:30, it was 8:33 and the place seemed desolate.

I started to think I had made a terrible mistake. What am I doing here? What am I thinking? I feel so uncomfortable, I want to scream except I that would bring way more attention to myself. Maybe I can still walk walk out and no one will notice. . .  I consider all the options. Maybe I can slip out and just sit in my car for an hour or so, then go home. But what would that do for me? I thought. 

Just then the bartender asked, "What can I get you?"

"Blue Moon" I reply before realizing what I have just done. Sheepishly I take the nearest seat and wait for my beer and think "Well, I'm here now". I take a deep breath and exhale slowly.

I notice a woman, who also seems to be alone sitting two seats down. She has long dark waves that frame her attractive face. She looks to be a few years older than me. I strike up a conversation to occupy my mind.

"Have you been here before?" I ask her.

"Yeah, A few times" she replies kindly. "The food's alright, but the tequila is better." I laugh, I notice it feel good in my chest when I laugh. I feel freer already. "How about you?" she inquires.

"Oh, this is my first time. I haven't been out in a long time. I thought I'd give this a try." I reply honestly.

I loved to dance as a child. I took lessons for years. I remember my dance recitals as a little girl, the getting all dressed up, wearing makeup and performing on stage. I had even taken an African dance elective in college, which my uncle still teases me about. "You know African dance, how about you show me some moves." he jokes. "trust me African dance is quite useful!" I always assert.

The truth is, I love to dance. It makes me feel good to move my body to the rhythm of music. Dance has always been my happy place a place to feel freedom and joy in my body. Right now there is some wisdom inside of me that just knows that after losing my marriage and my relationship with Ed, that I need to feel joy and is drawn to dance.

"So you are here for the lesson?" the dark haired woman asks me.

"Yeah, but I've never tried line dancing before." I tell her. "Are more people going to be here?" I ask, not wanting us to be the only two on display in the restaurant.

"Oh yeah, the lesson never starts on time." She reassures me, "More people willl show up. Not everyone comes for the lesson."

I begin thinking, maybe this is how you make friends as an adult. Just sit awkwardly next to someone and spark up a conversation.

I hadn't had a good friend in a long time. Being a mom had isolated me. After Jacob was born my life became more about diapers and snacks than it did about calling friends. I wasn't into drinking, concerts or clubs like most of my single friends seems to be up to according to their Facebook feeds which is the only way I knew what anyone was up to. I had friends, well acquaintences, but no one called, and I didn't call anyone.

Being with my Husband had isolated me before I became a mom. I isolated from friends early on because I didn't feel good about myself or my relationship and I didn't want to lie about how well life was going. I choose instead to avoid meeting up with people. it was easy to not show up to the gathering and not ago to the event. My world became very small, and nearly every interaction in my life revolved around my mom, my son or my husband.

I sometimes lost connections with people because of my choice to be with my ex. I remember the day a childhood girlfriend took me to coffee after a double date with her husband and mine. We chatted and laughed for a bit, then her demeanor changed. Suddenly she got really quiet. I noticed her body stiffen. She looked across the table at me, down at her latte then slowly she look back into my eyes. She told me that she didn't like the way my husband talked to me. She said it was hard for her to witness. She told me she loved me and wanted to get together still, and although I was welcome anytime, but my husband was not. I have not seen her much since that day.

I looked at the woman sitting next to me and wondered, is this a friendship budding at the bar? Maybe she will be my new girlfriend. Maybe I'll have someone to go dancing with? Maybe even a friend to go to a movie with. The possibilities were wide open. I felt so optimistic and I really loved that. I felt a bit more energetic too.

Just then the dark haired woman pointed out the dance teacher. "That's Sara." she told me, "She is the line dance instructor. The lesson will be starting soon."

She checked her phone and told me her friends were on the way. Sara took  the mic and encouraged everyone to the center of the dance floor. "Let's get started," she said with enthusiasm. 

The young teacher was confident and straightforward as she began to count off the steps. One, two, kick three, four, step five, six and seven, stomp eight. I recalled the language of dance from my youth. Everything happens in eight counts. There is a pattern, a method. There are moves, and names for those moves. The dance choreography is these small moves put together in different ways to make a longer dance.

Dancing has become my favorite a metaphor for life. With dancing you show up and move to the rhythm of the music. Its not about getting anywhere, its about enjoying the moment. Sometimes you miss a step and that is ok because no one gets it right all the time. The key in line dancing is to keep going after you mess up. Just pick up as soon as you can and try not to run into anyone. Sometimes you go forward, sometimes back, sometimes side to side its all part of the dance. Sometimes you have a partner and they lead and you follow, kinda like my relationship with 18 Source, whom I want to guide me. Sometimes you just dance all by yourself. And the point is not to get to the end as quickly as possible, the point is to just to enjoy yourself wile you are on the dance floor.

I looked up and saw a small crowd had formed. I felt relieved to be one of a group attempting this new endeavor. At least I'm alone. Awkwardly, we all follow the steps as Sara counts. I notice how good it feels to be off the bench, at least now I am moving. I slowly begin picking up the moves, many of which I remember from all those dance classes as a child. 

Sara shows us the whole dance and then we all cheer. "Let's do it to music." she motions to the DJ booth, "Taavit, Play it a bit slow. Here we go." And as we all begin to dance to the music, I notice something strange and unfamiliar. I finally feel at home in my body. I recognize it. It is the feeling of joy.